SPOKANE, Wash.—In its final game of the regular season, the BYU women’s basketball team fell hard to conference regular season champion Gonzaga, 77-60, Saturday afternoon in Bulldog territory.
BYU (24-6, 12-4) ends the season No. 2 in West Coast Conference standings with Gonzaga taking the regular season title with a 25-4 overall record and 14-2 conference record.
"I thought we played 20 good minutes in the game," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "Their inside presence really hurt us. I thought Haley Steed had probably one of her best games of the year. Hopefully we'll get a shot at them again in the tournament."
Senior Haley Steed led the Cougars with 17 points, eight assists, five rebounds and three steals. True freshman Lexi Eaton had 13 points and four assists, while senior Kristen Riley had 11 points and nine rebounds, leading BYU on the boards.
BYU shot 36 percent from the field and 45 percent from behind the 3-point line.
Gonzaga’s Katelan Redmon led the game with 28 points, helping the Bulldogs to shooting 49.2 percent from the floor.
BYU took control to start with a 6-0 run. Steed’s three defensive rebounds in the first two minutes prevented Gonzaga from snagging second-chance points. Gonzaga’s own 9-0 run put the Bulldogs in the lead 13-8 after a 3-pointer by Taelor Karr.
Seven turnovers plagued the Cougars early in the half, but Steed kept her team in the game with a trey. Stephanie Vermunt tied it at 13-13 on her layup, but BYU stumbled and allowed a 7-0 Bulldog run.
Steed became No. 4 in BYU history for career 3-pointers with 6:09 on the clock, draining a beyond-the-arc bucket. True freshman Xojian Harry’s trey put the Cougars back within three points, setting up Riley to tie the game 22-22 on the team’s third-straight 3-pointer.
Gonzaga skipped ahead as the clock wound down, but a Vermunt 3-pointer and last-second jumper kept the score at a close 29-27 going into halftime. The sophomore forward led the team with seven points at the half in 10 minutes of play.
Senior Dani Peterson pushed the score within one with the help of Lexi Eaton before the Bulldogs took off on a 16-0 run for their largest lead of the game, 48-31. Steed tried to stop Gonzaga’s momentum with a 3-pointer, but Bulldog Karr responded with her own basket from 3-point land.
Eaton cut the deficit to 12 before Steed fired off her fifth 3-pointer of the game with just over 10 minutes left. Eaton continued her successful streak with a layup and her own 3-pointer to bring BYU within seven at 56-49.
Eaton’s renewed energy wasn’t enough to spark a comeback, ending the rematch in a 77-60 Gonzaga victory.
With their second-place finish, the Cougars pick up the No. 2 seed for the West Coast Conference Championships, giving BYU a bye into the semifinals. BYU will play Saturday in the second semifinal of the day at approximately 2:30 p.m. PST at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Haley Steed made two 3-pointer in the first half of the game, putting her in fourth place all-time in 3-pointers made in a game. She had a team-high 17 points to lead the BYU effort, marking her 12th double-figure game in points of the year and the 40th of her career.
Kristen Riley had three blocks in the game, putting her in fifth place all-time with a total of 81. She tallied 11 points, marking her 13th double-digit outing in conference play, the 17th this season and the 44th overall.
Lexi Eaton was the third Cougar player to score in double digits with 13 for her 11th double-figure game in points in WCC action and the 19th overall.
With the loss to Gonzaga, BYU finishes in second place with a 12-4 record in the West Coast Conference regular season race in its first year in the conference. The Cougars will be the No. 2 seed in next week's Championships and get a bye into the semifinals of the WCC Championships and will play Saturday.